In the previous blog post I discussed the health benefits of coconut oil, and in this post I will be focusing on the benefits of olive oil. Towards the end of this post I will also mention a few other healthier oils. In addition, I will list a few oils you should avoid whenever possible. I will also discuss how you can avoid olive oil fraud, as many people think they are consuming olive oil when this isn’t the case.
Basic facts: Olive oil is obtained from the olive. With regards to its fatty acid content, olive oil is composed mostly of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that is responsible for many of the health benefits of olive oil. But olive oil also consists of other fatty acids, including palmitic acid and linoleic acid. In addition, olive oil has numerous polyphenols which also have many different health benefits. What I’d like to do is discuss some of the health benefits of oleic acid and the polyphenols of olive oil.
Oleic acid. Oleic acid isn’t exclusively found in olive oil. Canola oil and sunflower oil are actually high in oleic acid as well. Almonds are a good source, as are avocados, along with beef, chicken, and eggs. As for some of the health benefits, one study showed that higher plasma oleic acid levels due to olive oil consumption was associated with lower stroke incidence (1). There is also evidence that olive oil reduces blood pressure, and one study showed that it’s the oleic acid content that’s responsible for this (2). Another study showed that oleic acid can help to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells (3). Some studies suggest that oleic acid might also have a beneficial effect on autoimmune and inflammatory conditions (4).
Polyphenols. Some of the different polyphenols of olive oil include tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, ligstroside, apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, rutin, and there are numerous others (5). These polyphenols can have protective effects on cardiovascular risk factors, and one study showed that consumption of olive oil polyphenols decreased plasma LDL concentrations and LDL atherogenicity (6). Another study showed that olive oil polyphenols enhance HDL function in humans (7). LDL is known as the “bad cholesterol”, and HDL is referred to as the “good cholesterol”, and while these are actually lipoproteins, the important thing to understand is that olive oil can have a beneficial effect on our lipid markers by increasing HDL and decreasing LDL.
Here are some of the uses of olive oil:
- Olive oil is a great oil for cooking. Just as is the case with coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil resists oxidation at high temperatures.
- Put olive oil on your salad and/or mix with other vegetables. I’ve never been a big fan of salad dressings, but I do enjoy adding olive oil to my salads. I also add olive oil to other vegetables, such as steamed broccoli.
- Add to your smoothie. I usually don’t add olive oil to my smoothies, as I usually have a daily salad and I add plenty of olive oil to it. However, I commonly add one tablespoon of olive oil to my wife’s smoothies, which I prepare for her in the morning.
Why Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
There are many different varieties of olives. The reason why you want to always buy extra virgin olive oil is because this has higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants. Other types of olive oils are extracted using solvents and other chemicals, whereas extra virgin olive oil is obtained from the olive using a “cold-press technique”, which doesn’t alter the chemical natural (8). In fact, the term “virgin” means that the oil was produced with no chemical treatment.
Other Research Studies on Olive Oil
Just as I did with coconut oil in the last blog post, I would like to mention some of the studies which discuss the health benefits of using olive oil.
Cardiovascular benefits. Multiple studies show that olive oil can benefit cardiovascular health. One study showed that olive oil decreased systolic blood pressure and increased HDL-C concentrations (9). There is also evidence that extra virgin olive oil consumption can reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (10).
Type 2 diabetes. There is evidence that higher olive oil consumption is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women (11). Another study showed that extra virgin olive oil improves post-prandial glucose and lipid profile in those with impaired fasting glucose (12).
Inflammation. There is evidence that olive oil can exert beneficial effects on markers of inflammation (13) (14). One study discussed how extra virgin olive oil has joint protective effects by significantly reducing the levels of proinflammatory cytokines and prostaglandin E2 in the joint (15).
Neuroprotective effects. Olive oil phenols have been shown to have neuroprotective effects against cerebral ischemia, spinal cord injury, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, aging, and peripheral neuropathy (18).
Cancer. Earlier I mentioned how the oleic acid in olive oil can help to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. And there are a few other studies which show that olive oil can have a protective effect not only with breast cancer, but with colorectal cancer as well (19) (20).
Beware Of Olive Oil Fraud
For years I had purchased organic extra virgin olive oil, and just like millions of other people, I didn’t think twice about the possibility of it not being olive oil. But Tom Mueller opened my eyes in his book entitled “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil”. He discusses how some unscrupulous companies use other unhealthy oils (i.e. soybean oil), and sell it as extra virgin olive oil. You might be wondering how such companies can get away with it, and for more information I would recommend reading his book. But for now I’ll provide a link to “Tom’s olive oil supermarket picks“. When purchasing olive oil, you want to make sure it has a seal from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC), and it should also have a harvesting date on the label.
Other Healthy Oils
In addition to consuming coconut oil and olive oil, here a few other healthier oils you can consume.
Macadamia nut oil
Avocado oil is probably the healthiest oil from this list. If someone is following an autoimmune paleo diet, then consuming macadamia nut oil is somewhat controversial. And while palm oil is allowed, the harvesting of palm trees for palm oil frequently results in the destruction of tropical forests, which in turns destroys the habitats of many animals. Indonesia might be a potential source of palm oil without the concern of deforestation (21). Although I like flax oil, keep in mind that it oxidizes easily, and so you want to make sure that when you purchase it that it’s refrigerated, and then when you bring it home you want to put in the refrigerator immediately.
On the other hand, the following oils are ones that are best to be avoided:
Can Olive Oil Affect Thyroid Health?
Just as is the case with coconut oil, I didn’t find any studies which showed that olive oil directly affects thyroid health. However, it might indirectly benefit people with autoimmune thyroid conditions by helping to reduce inflammation. And while there are many other nutrients that can help to reduce inflammation, olive oil should be one that you consume on a regular basis.
So hopefully you learned some valuable information about the health benefits of olive oil by reading this blog post. Most of the health benefits of olive oil come from oleic acid and the polyphenols. Olive oil can be used for cooking, as a salad dressing, and you can even add olive oil to your smoothies. Extra virgin olive oil has higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants. When you purchase olive oil please make sure it has a seal from the International Olive Oil Council, and it should also have a harvesting date on the label. Some other healthy oils include avocado oil, palm oil, macadamia nut oil, and flax oil. Some of the oils you want to avoid include cottonseed oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil.